NFL Nation: Jacob Ford

When Jacksonville cut him just before the season, the widespread presumption was that David Garrard would be quickly scooped up. But the former Jaguars quarterback remains out of work, reportedly unsatisfied with a scenario Miami recently presented.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert and David Garrard
Phil Sears/US PresswireDavid Garrard, who was replaced by rookie Blaine Gabbert, is still searching for a job in the NFL.
Jacob Ford was a pretty effective situational pass rusher for the Titans, but didn’t rate as a fit for them as they changed their defense and went with bigger ends. When healthy, former Jaguar Vince Manuwai can be a top-flight run blocking guard. Like Garrard, they seemed like players who would land another job in relative short order.

But more than a month into the season, they and many others who may still be NFL-caliber players are floating around, jobless.

Why?

My theory is that when Team X spends a draft pick, money, time and resources to develop a player and ultimately decides he can no longer help, the rest of the league tends to think, “We’d rather develop our guy than take a chance on theirs considering they’ve given up on him.”

“There are a lot of good players out there,” Titans defensive end Dave Ball said. “Look at guys coming though for workout not getting picked up. [Safety] Chris Horton came though here and worked out. He was playing a big role for the Redskins, a big role, a couple years ago.

“It’s tough. When you get cut, it can take a while. I got cut and it took me a year plus to get back with somebody. I think it’s a big confidence shaker for teams looking to pick people up.”

Teams typically have realistic views of their own players, at least in time. Fans can tend to overvalue their own.

Ball said Ford is a good pass rusher who should definitely be on a team, and that it’s scary to look at the landscape of a league where there is not a spot for him.

As more and more teams devote themselves more and more to building through the draft, they seem to be less and less interested in pulling in an outsider during the season if they don’t have a hole created by injury.

Surely former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu expected to be working again by now.

For a lot of No. 1 picks it’s different. Aaron Maybin, a defensive end drafted in the first round by Buffalo in 2009 but cut after two seasons, was of interest to more than one team and got signed by the Jets. The Colts scooped up former Atlanta No. 1 pick Jamaal Anderson and are getting good run-down work from him. Linebacker Ernie Sims was a similar acquisition, but he’s been hurt.

“There are a lot of people who will take that first-rounder, anticipating that they may not be able to get a full 60 minutes out of him, but maybe they can get two quarters of No. 1 draft pick play out of him, kind of using him in a role,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “There are some teams that do a great job of that, take guys who have been No. 1s, plug them in and say, ‘All I need is a quarter or two quarters’ or ‘All I need is third down from this guy’ and try to utilize him that way.”

As for lesser picks who are still floating out there, Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said he thinks it’s still early and a lot of those guys will wind up playing.

The lockout contributed to less opportunity, too. Reinfeldt said the draft pick a team might have given up on after spending the spring and summer with him got the benefit of the doubt as teams needed more time to evaluate.

“It was all so quick,” Reinfeldt said. “You didn’t get the opportunity to evaluate them the way you did in the past, so some made it because of who they were. This year was so compressed, I think some rookies made it just because the period of inspection and scrutiny wasn’t what it usually was. And that came at the expense of those other guys.”

Draft picks are such a premium commodity. Teams love to gather them, hate to part with them, believe their scouting system can find them quality with each one.

Linebacker Barrett Ruud moved from the Buccaneers to the Titans as a free agent this season. He sees building your own guys as the central theme when it comes to opportunity these days.

“Teams want to develop the guy they brought up,” Ruud said. “Sometimes, you’ve got a young guy and maybe it’s his first chance to start a game. You bring in someone to start in front of him and his confidence is shattered.

“I don’t think it’s a reflection so much of how somebody got cut. I think it’s more a reflection of a team wanting to develop a guy they brought in.”

Denver Broncos cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the Denver Broncos' roster moves.

Surprise move: The cuts of defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon and safety Kyle McCarthy were unexpected. Jarmon was brought in through a trade from Washington for Jabar Gaffney. He was expected to be part of Denver’s defensive-line rotation. McCarthy was working with the first-team defense for parts of camp. But in the end, 2010 draft picks David Bruton and Darcel McBath were kept over McCarthy.

No-brainers: There was talk that Derrick Harvey could be cut. But the team needs to keep him, especially with Jarmon out. The former No. 8 overall pick from Jacksonville is needed on Denver’s tenuous line. While he probably will never live up to his lofty draft position, Harvey is solid against the run and could help Denver. Also, I’m not shocked that Denver kept only rookie tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green behind starter Daniel Fells. They cut Dante Rosario and Dan Gronkowski. The Broncos really like their three tight ends.

What's next: The Broncos have the No. 2 waiver priority. Expect them to use it often. Denver probably will look at defensive linemen, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and running backs on the waiver wire. The Colts cut defensive tackle Tommie Harris. DT is Denver’s greatest need, but the Broncos might be reluctant to pursue a player who has been cut by the Bears and Colts this year. Recently cut defensive linemen Jacob Ford (Tennessee) and Marcus Harrison (Chicago) could be appealing to Denver.
A running list of Saturday cuts around the AFC South so far, per reports from people in the know…

Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville
Tennessee
» NFC: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each AFC South team:

Houston Texans

1. Finally fix the secondary: Not only was the Texans’ secondary awful in coverage last season, but it also needs some stabilizing veteran leadership on the back end of this revamped defense. A safety like Eric Weddle could help cure both issues. There are quite a few safeties in this crop of free agents who would be clear upgrades for Houston. Of course, we have to discuss Nnamdi Asomugha -- and the Texans should certainly be right in the thick of those negotiations. If they can’t land Asomugha, the Texans could pursue Johnathan Joseph or Ike Taylor, who could help fix some leaks.

2. Work the cap: Houston is pretty tight up against the cap as it stands right now. But the team has serious needs on defense -- particularly in the secondary. In order to get the help they need, the Texans might have to restructure a few contracts or let a current player or two go.

3. Lock up Vonta Leach: This offense pretty much has it all. Wideout Andre Johnson makes everyone around him better in just so many ways. And the running game was exceptional last season. But Leach is a key component in that running game. And no fullback opens holes like this guy. Houston should bring him back and dedicate the rest of its free-agent moves to the defense.

Top five free agents: Leach, WR Jacoby Jones, S Bernard Pollard, DE Mark Anderson and QB Matt Leinart.

Indianapolis Colts

1. Get Peyton Manning’s extension done: Manning has been franchised and had surgery again on his neck recently. But there is little doubt who the face of this franchise is. Getting him locked up long term is something that Indianapolis just needs to get done.

2. Get a starting safety signed: Melvin Bullitt is a free agent. He is a solid player, and bringing him back makes a lot of sense. Outside of Antoine Bethea, who is vastly underrated, Indy has very little at this position. The Colts need to get a starter under contract. Also on defense, bringing back linebacker Clint Session, who is a superb fit in this scheme, and adding defensive tackle help also should be priorities if they can fit it under the cap.

3. Add running back help: This could come in the form of bringing back the reliable Joseph Addai. Well, he is reliable when he is healthy. And Addai has a great grasp of the Colts’ offense. I am very high on 2011 draft pick Delone Carter and maybe the light goes on for Donald Brown. But the Colts do need someone in their backfield who can pass protect and can be trusted. In this capacity, Addai seems to be worth more to the Colts than to any other team.

Top five free agents: Manning (franchised), Session, Addai, Bullitt and OT Charlie Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Address holes at linebacker: Linebackers Justin Durant and Kirk Morrison are up for free agency. I would suggest bringing one of those two back and then finding an upgrade from a coverage standpoint at a starting linebacker position to go along with the steady Daryl Smith. James Anderson would be an excellent target, and if healthy, so would another Panther -- Thomas Davis.

2. Address holes at safety: Jacksonville featured one of the worst secondaries in football last season. The Jags tried many bodies at safety, but it yielded minimal results. This is a very strong free-agent safety class, and the Jaguars need to add a starter or two they can count on week after week.

3. Spend! The Jaguars have quite a bit of money to spend in free agency, and under the new rules, they will have to spend. This free-agency period is like none we have ever seen and the action could be fast and furious. Jacksonville needs to stay the course and make wise financial decisions as it tries to add players who can mostly upgrade a hurting defense.

Top free agents: Marcedes Lewis (franchised), WR Mike Sims-Walker, Durant and Morrison.

Tennessee Titans

1. Revamp the Interior offensive line: Although they didn’t play great in 2010, I have faith in the Titans’ offensive tackles. But the interior of the line is a train wreck. That won’t do with a rookie quarterback behind center and in an offense that will be extremely run-heavy. Chris Johnson had little room to run last season. That needs to change. Marshal Yanda and Harvey Dahl would be great targets here.

2. Add a veteran quarterback: Needless to say, the Titans cannot enter the season with just the quarterbacks they currently have on their roster. They must bring in a veteran with some experience. Donovan McNabb would be high on my list. Matt Hasselbeck might also fit the bill.

3. Fortify every level of the defense: Presently, Tennessee is very young at linebacker, just adequate at safety and could lose three of its defensive ends. Making matters more difficult, the team is also installing a different version of the 4-3 defense. The Titans do have some money to spend in free agency. It would be wise if they used those funds on young free-agent talent, as it appears this team is now rebuilding from the ground up. Every level of the defense could use reinforcement.

Top five free agents: DE Jason Babin, LB Stephen Tulloch, WR Randy Moss, DE Dave Ball and DE Jacob Ford.

Titans back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
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» NFC: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: As poor as any team in the league, simply because of bad timing. New coach Mike Munchak and his staff have not had any time with their guys and are relying completely on tape for their assessments of veterans. The team does not yet have a quarterback who is the probable starter on opening day. Although Cortland Finnegan and Jake Scott did admirable work with group workouts and a two-day minicamp, having rookie Jake Locker along with Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff as the signal-callers didn’t cut it.

Biggest challenge: Sorting out the quarterback issue. Even if the Titans wanted to go sink-or-swim with Locker from the start -- and the chances are very slim that's where they'll end up -- they have no veteran qualified to help him out. They could take a big swing at free agent Matt Hasselbeck, who would be determined to start as long as possible but also would mentor Locker, who’s already a friend. If they don’t land him, with Kerry Collins retired, the position will be a major concern.

Beyond quarterback: How actively will the Titans shop in free agency? They said they were not done at defensive tackle after the draft. They could use help at linebacker, especially if Stephen Tulloch moves on. Chris Hope is aging and expensive, and they could look to upgrade at strong safety. What goes unaddressed (like interior offensive line, likely) will tell us about their initial confidence level in multiple incumbents.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Defensive ends Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, Tulloch, guard Leroy Harris, fullback Ahmard Hall, receiver Randy Moss.
If the new CBA takes the shape that’s currently being reported, unrestricted free agency would arrive after four years. That was the standard number for players with expired contracts to hit free agency until 2010 -- the final year of the old CBA -- when players needed to have six years of experience.

So Independence Day could arrive for players who were trapped by the rule change in the final year of the last deal.

Here’s a team-by-team look at notable players who stand to be unrestricted now who didn’t know what their fate would be in a new labor agreement.

Houston Texans

OT Rashad Butler -- Was not great playing filling in for four games for a suspended Duane Brown, but they like him as their third tackle.

WR Jacoby Jones -- Flashes make him appealing, inconsistency makes him dispensable if someone wants to pay him more.

QB Matt Leinart -- Likely to move on to a place where he can rank better than No. 3.

Indianapolis Colts

RB Joseph Addai -- Has more value to the Colts because of system fit, so perhaps he won’t get a more attractive offer elsewhere.

S Melvin Bullitt -- There are a lot of safety-needy teams in the league, including the other three in the AFC South and he’s very steady.

DT Antonio Johnson -- Probably would only rank fourth on the inside. Has not been real effective but team seems to like him.

OL Charlie Johnson-- Versatility makes him valuable, but like Addai he may not fit other teams as well.

DT Daniel Muir -- Could still rank as the second interior lineman depending on development of third-round pick Drake Nevis.

LB Clint Session -- The Colts have a long history of letting young linebackers move on and plugging in the next guy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

LB Justin Durant -- All indications are the team is ready to find a veteran linebacker in free agency to take his place.

QB Trent Edwards -- No hope of a return with David Garrard, Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown on the roster.

TE Marcedes Lewis -- He’s franchise tagged and that’s expected to hold in the new agreement, so he won’t really become free.

P Adam Podlesh -- They could do better, they could do worse.

WR Mike Sims-Walker -- The team told him before the lockout they’d be going another direction.

Tennessee Titans

DE Jacob Ford -- The Titans know his situational pass rushing value but are also looking to beef up and emphasize stopping the run.

FB Ahmard Hall -- An important guy for Chris Johnson and a rock on a team with little leadership even if he’s not an every-down guy.

G Leroy Harris -- The team’s faith in him as the starter at left guard appears to be unwavering.

LB Stephen Tulloch -- I suspect his view of his value and the league’s view are quite different.

Draft Watch: AFC South

March, 10, 2011
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» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Needs.

Houston Texans

Where to start? The defense needs a major personnel infusion, starting at safety, where this draft is weak. Eugene Wilson (cut) and Bernard Pollard (not tendered in case he would be restricted) are not going to be back. They need candidates for both starting spots.

Outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 is a void, where rehabbing 4-3 end Connor Barwin is slated to be one guy and there is a blank on the other.

The team has talked confidently about Shaun Cody, who got a two-year contract, and second-year man Earl Mitchell being capable of playing the nose for Phillips. They can certainly upgrade.

The best answer for a group of too-young cornerbacks would be a veteran, not a rookie, but who knows how the next guy arrives? And a No. 2 wide receiver better than Kevin Walter who can do what they’d hoped Jacoby Jones would do would be nice.

Indianapolis Colts

We’ve been hearing about the need to get a tough yard in a crucial situation with the run game for some time and haven’t seen the personnel changes necessary. Then Bill Polian said during the season that yes, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold (drafted by the Rams in the second round) could have helped the Colts. The team needs offensive linemen, plural. At least one high-quality guy who can contribute from opening day would be big.

When they're healthy, Indianapolis has a great four-pack of receivers in Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez. But health questions on Collie and Gonzalez will linger; none of those guys looks to be an heir to Wayne’s role, and the Peyton Manning-era Colts have spent premium picks on skill guys.

The corner depth proved pretty good, but even if they are ultimately able to re-sign Melvin Bullitt, the Colts need some depth at safety.

Jacksonville Jaguars

While Courtney Greene may be a serviceable NFL safety, Don Carey probably is not. Odds are the Jaguars draft one and sign one at a position that was a big weakness in 2010.

Linebacker is also a spot of need. Daryl Smith is locked in, but the team probably will allow Kirk Morrison and Justin Durant to walk as free agents, meaning they need a starter on the middle and the outside.

Defensive end wouldn’t seem a need considering the team drafted Larry Hart and Austen Lane last season after adding veteran Aaron Kampman. But the pass rush is not where they want it, and a rush end could well be a position they address.

Inconsistent quarterback David Garrard needs to see the team have a legitimate alternative, and he should come from this draft. And those two quarterbacks plus Luke McCown need a No. 1-caliber receiver to head a group that won’t bring Mike Sims-Walker back.

Tennessee Titans

It starts under center, where the Titans do not have a No. 1 or No. 2 quarterback. They intend to add one veteran and one rookie and could easily spend their first or second pick on a signal-caller.

The team needs to get bigger and more durable on the defensive line. A beefy tackle and a rugged defensive end are on the wish list, and both could help make things easier for the rest of the defense. The interior didn’t collapse the pocket a lot, and the smallish ends wore down. Three of them are heading for free agency -- Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford.

Stephen Tulloch is heading for free agency, and the Titans didn’t get enough plays out of the linebackers last year, so they could upgrade.

Chris Hope’s replacement at strong safety doesn’t appear to be on the roster. While it’s a thin draft at the spot, the Titans need to find a candidate.

More praise for Jim Washburn

January, 24, 2011
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The Philadelphia Eagles don't have a defensive coordinator yet, but apparently they landed the best defensive line coach in the business in Jim Washburn. In his Monday Morning Quarterback column, SI.com's Peter King delivered an interesting nugget on Washburn, who spent 12 seasons with the Tennessee Titans:

"In his years coaching the Tennessee line, he'd always get lightly regarded players (Jacob Ford, Jason Jones) or veteran rejects (Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Babin) to produce in the pass-rush game," writes King. "One of his secrets was charting every sack in the NFL each year to determine what kind of move was used (spin, bull-rush, stunt/twist) to get to the quarterback, and where exactly the sack took place.

"So let's say Washburn's study determined that the average sacks of the teams Tennessee was going to play the next year occurred 5.5 yards behind the left guard. Washburn would then coach the following offseason to target the area 5.5 yards behind the left guard as the spot during drills his linemen would aim for. He took pass-rush science to a new level."

The Eagles' pass-rush was good in spurts this past season, but it fell off the map down the stretch. Andy Reid is banking that Washburn can have a dramatic impact on his pass-rushers. And he loves the fact that Washburn has something to prove after his stay in Nashville ended on somewhat of a sour note. Washburn's former players (and a fair amount of media types) absolutely swear by the guy.

And as I've always said, most sacks take place 5.5 yards behind the left guard. With this knowledge, Trent Cole might be headed for a 16-sack season.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Donald Brown starts at running back for the Colts tonight with Joseph Addai and Mike Hart both out, though we’re sure to see some Javarris James and maybe Dominic Rhodes in the first game of his third stint with the franchise.

The Colts have three other subs, who are not surprises: Kavell Conner starts for Clint Session at weakside linebacker, Jacob Lacey starts at left corner for Kelvin Hayden and Justin Tryon starts at left corner for Jerraud Powers, who went on IR this week.

For the Titans Dave Ball (concussion/ hip) is inactive and will be replaced at right end by Jacob Ford.

The whole list of inactives:

Titans: QB Rusty Smith, S Robert Johnson, T Troy Kropog, CB Ryan Mouton, LB David Thornton, DT Sen’Derrick Marks.

Colts: WR Austin Collie, CB Kelvin Hayden, RB Joseph Addai, RB Mike Hart, LB Clint Session, OG Jacques McClendon, DT Ricardo Mathews.

Titans thin on D-line for Texans' game

November, 28, 2010
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HOUSTON -- The Titans' pass rush will have a depth test today at Reliant Stadium against the Texans. Standout pass rushers Jason Jones (knee) and Dave Ball (concussion) are out.

Sen’Derrick Marks will replace Jones and Jacob Ford will replace Ball.

Those guys can be fine, but the Titans are thin behind them. They will play with three ends and with Marques Douglas as the fourth defensive tackle.

Houston will start rookie Darryl Sharpton over Zac Diles, who’s been sick.

The roof will be open.

A look at the complete inactive lists:

#Titans inactives: Kenny Britt, Robert Johnson, Troy Kropog, Lavelle Hawkins, Jason Jones, Dave Ball, David Thornton, Chris Simms.

Texans: Matt Leinart, Brice McCain, Xavier Adibi, Kasey Studdard, Malcolm Sheppard, Jesse Nading, Owen Daniels, David Anderson. #NFL
BrittAP Photo/Frederick BreedonKenny Britt now gives the Tennessee Titans a bona fide deep threat.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have long searched for a dynamic downfield receiver. Sunday at LP Field, the Titans got the kind of game that says they finally have one.

Kenny Britt is big, physical and fast, but he’s also still growing up.

Early Friday morning, he was accused of throwing punches in a bar brawl at Karma Lounge on Broadway in downtown Nashville.

Late Sunday afternoon, his quarterback and coordinator were answering questions about how highly he ranks among the receivers they throw to and call plays for, respectively.

A seven-catch, 225-yard, three-touchdown game has a way of altering the focus of the conversation. Britt's performance keyed the Titans' 37-19 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“There is not much better that I’ve played with,” said Kerry Collins, the 16th year quarterback who played for the injured Vince Young. “…[Britt is] going to do everything he can to get the ball, he’s aggressive going after it. The guy loves to play, love to make big plays. As a quarterback, it’s nice to know a guy like that is on your team because like you saw today, there were some throws that weren’t exactly perfect, but the guy did whatever he had to do to get the ball.

“You can have all the physical tools in the world but if you don’t have that, it doesn’t make you a special player. And I think Kenny has the ability to be a special player.”

I asked Mike Heimerdinger, who’s overseen the Titans' offense for eight seasons in two separate stints, where Britt ranks among the guys he’s coached in Nashville.

“Ability wise, he has the most of anybody,” Heimerdinger said. “Derrick Mason did more with less ability than Kenny has. I wouldn’t put him ahead of Mase yet.”

Britt had the Titans biggest receiving day since Drew Bennett had 233 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas City on Dec. 13, 2004. The Eagles had never given up so many receiving yards to one player.

For the Titans, now 5-2, it should amount to more than a big day.

It should delineate two shifts: One where the teams that choose to stack things up to stop running back Chris Johnson pay the price in deep passing production; another in how the Titans deploy their receivers.

Britt was used primarily as the team’s third receiver through the team’s first four games this season. He started the two games before this one with Justin Gage out with a hamstring injury.

With Gage still out, Britt would have started against the Eagles, but coach Jeff Fisher disciplined him for the Karma Lounge incident. Britt sat until the middle of the second quarter; Fisher is relying on the crutch of "gathering facts.”

Britt has now caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games.

So now, when Gage is ready, he should remain in the background.

Nothing personal against a nice guy who’s been productive in spurts and is signed through 2011. But it’s time to move on, and to do so the Titans need to play Britt and Nate Washington as the starters, with rookie Damian Williams as the No. 3.

Gage can dress, but he shouldn’t be on the field unless something is wrong with one of those three guys. He could be used as the fourth receiver rotating in once in a while to offer a breather.

A year ago, after four starts, the Titans scratched a healthy defensive end Jevon Kearse. He got hurt in practice after that, but clearly the team decided amid a poor start to move forward without the veteran. The Titans turned things over to guys with more upside like William Hayes, Jacob Ford and Dave Ball. Kearse appeared in only two more games before his contract ran out and he disappeared.

It’s time now for them to “Jevon Kearse” Gage in order to create sufficient room for Britt and Williams, who’s played well in increased chances the last few weeks.

I asked general manager Mike Reinfeldt about Britt earning a starting role.

“I think as you go along, people do things that demand more play time and I’m not sure what more you can do than he’s done,” Reinfeldt said. “That’s how it should work. You earn play time.”

Defensive coordinators are going to have to spent additional time formulating better plans against Britt. They have to be able to make better, quicker adjustments to him than Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott did.

Britt worked mostly against cornerback Ellis Hobbs, though several of his big plays turned out to be against safety Nate Allen.

He got to the corner for his first touchdown. Britt circled a ball that was under thrown as Collins got his arm hit to take the second one 80 yards for a touchdown. Britt caught the third score among three defenders in the center of the end zone.

Did Collins expect the Eagles to make an adjustment away from that safety-centric coverage?

“I did,” he said. “And they didn’t.”

“A lot of that was just me,” Allen said.

Only near the very end was cornerback Asante Samuel on Britt’s side of the field.

“About six, seven minutes left I was going to go over and cover him,” Samuel said. “But we didn’t have enough time.”

Fullback Ahmard Hall said he still expects Britt to address the team this week, perhaps apologizing for causing a distraction. Many of the Titans won’t consider it necessary after he did so much to lift them in such a big win. Two of his touchdowns were part of the team’s 27-point fourth-quarter, the franchise's most productive final quarter ever.

I suspect Britt will be in before too late Sunday night. He said his fiancée gave him grief over being out late when trouble is more likely.

“Don’t go to places after 12,” he said when asked what he’d learned. “Stay in the house. My fiancée actually yelled at me and I was like, ‘OK, I’ll stay home for the rest of the season.’”

Britt’s friend Jason McCourty, a Titans cornerback who was part of the same draft class out of Rutgers, joked he might go the other way.

“I told Kenny now if he’s trying to back to Karma this Thursday night, I’m with him, if that’s the type of game you’re going to have,” McCourty said, laughing.

Giants-Titans: Shaun O'Hara inactive

September, 26, 2010
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants starting center Shaun O'Hara has been deactivated for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans because of an injured left ankle and he'll be replaced by Adam Koets. It will be Koets' first start as a lineman after beginning last week's game as an extra tight end.

The Titans love to play games at the line of scrimmage with twists and stunts, so there will be a lot of pressure on Koets to make the right calls. Look for the Giants' starting guards to help him out quite a bit. The most significant inactive for the Titans is defensive end Jacob Ford who sprained his right knee and ankle last Sunday.

Here are the Giants' inactives:

WR Ramses Barden, S Michael Johnson, LB Phillip Dillard, LB Chase Blackburn, O'Hara, T Will Beatty, WR Duke Calhoun, DT Linval Joseph.

General manager Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin had hoped that Joseph would play a significant role in the tackle rotation, but he hasn't been able to earn a uniform.

Wrap-up: Titans 38, Raiders 13

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
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What it means: A 1-0 start a year after starting 0-6 will be a big hit in Nashville, where Chris Johnson showed a slow preseason meant nothing.

Trending: As they did in the preseason, the Titans got a lot of plays from a lot of guys on defense. Will Witherspoon, Jason Babin, Derrick Morgan and Jacob Ford had sacks and Babin and Ford also forced fumbles. Dave Ball had two passes defensed. Jason Jones had a tackle for loss. Ryan Mouton forced a fumble. That’s a lot of production.

What I liked: Third down. On offense, Tennessee converted 53 percent. On defense the Titans allowed conversions only 21 percent of the time. Vince Young was efficient with two touchdowns, no picks and a 142.8 quarterback rating (but a fumble) and Johnson was Johnson (27 carries, 142 yards, two touchdowns).

Unsung hero: Punter Brett Kern averaged 44.5 net yards on four punts, helping produce an average drive start for the Raiders that was 11 yards worse than Tennessee’s.

What’s next: The Titans host Pittsburgh in Game 2 of Ben Roethlisberger's suspension.

ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 18

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Since 2002, Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee Titans have had a losing record in the first month five times. Last season, it wasn’t just a bad start, it was a miserable 0-6.

Fisher and his staff have often been masterful at guiding a team’s climb out of a hole, but starting off on more level ground is a necessity if the young 2010 Titans are to re-emerge as a playoff team.

“Camp’s different than it was last year, we have four preseason games rather than five, we had injuries to deal with,” Fisher said. “We’re going to work on a couple opponents [earlier], prepare for them a little differently.

“We need to get off to a good start this year.”

A lot of recognizable names are gone, and that’s fine if a youth movement is as stocked as they believe it is. But it’s the sort of roster that could need time to settle in, which could mean early struggles again.

THREE HOT ISSUES

Will there be sufficient leadership?

[+] EnlargeAhmard Hall
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesAhmard Hall is a likely candidate to help fill the leadership void in Nashville.
Even if Kyle Vanden Bosch, Keith Bulluck, Alge Crumpler and Kevin Mawae were all starting to tail off and even if the Titans feel they have an upgrade over each, that is still as big a loss of collective leadership in one offseason as I can recall. The people in place to lead now -- guys like safety Chris Hope and fullback Ahmard Hall -- have to maintain, or increase, their level of production to attain and maintain the credibility that batch had.

Linebacker Will Witherspoon was the biggest veteran addition, and he looks to be a top candidate to take on a leadership mantle. But as a newcomer he’s got to figure out how to fit himself smoothly into the mix.

“With me it’s more about deciphering how to approach individuals,” Witherspoon said. “…Those are the kind of things you have to figure out. You look at the stages of leadership and different types of leadership. I’m not the guy who’s a loudmouth, getting down a guy’s throat.

“But I will, if I feel like I need to, take a guy aside and say look, ‘Here’s what I see, here’s what going on and here’s how people feel about it. Here’s what I can tell you is going to change it or you’re just going to end up with a real problem.’”

Vince Young needs to play a solid 16 games.

He’s got the league’s most explosive back behind him, an excellent offensive line protecting him and the franchise’s best crop of wide receivers in some time. Things are set up for Young to succeed as the team’s starting quarterback.

The Titans need to know they can count on him to bounce back from play-to-play, series-to-series, day-to-day and week-to-week. They need improved accountability, accuracy and consistency. They need for him not to provide reasons for fans to debate whether Rusty Smith is actually the team’s quarterback of the future.

There are more questions on defense, and the Titans need to do some scoring to allow for the sort of mistakes some of the young defenders are bound to make, especially early on.

Can the pass rush and secondary improve?

[+] EnlargeChris Hope
AP Photo/Stephen MortonChris Hope and the Titans' secondary will have to defend better against the play-action pass.
The pass rush was insufficient and the secondary failed to hold up when it needed to last. Fisher said the back end needs to be better on play-action but that the regular rush against drop back passes should be improved with a deep crop of defensive linemen.

“If we can get back to where we were with the guys rushing up front in the rotation, they’ll be fine,” Fisher said. “The play-action pass, that’s got to get done by the secondary. You don’t get as quick pressure on the quarterback in the play-action pass. We gave up too many plays in the play-action passing game last year. That’s going to require better play from the linebackers and the secondary.

“On drop backs we should really be able to do some more things.”

They don’t have clear-cut guys as the primary rushers or for the No. 2 corner spot. But they have the next best thing in what appear to be a deep pool of young options.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Harris and Stevens: Offensive lineman Leroy Harris and tight end Craig Stevens might prove more effective than Mawae and Crumpler, the two guys they are replacing. Harris is actually at left guard, with Eugene Amano sliding inside to center. Stevens doesn’t have Crumpler’s girth but can fend off a would-be tackler and/or slip out into a route so long as concussion issues don’t surface again.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Morgan out: First-round pick Derrick Morgan has been sidelined for camp with a calf injury. The defensive end has missed so much installation and work it will be tough for him to contribute. The Titans have to hope some combination of William Hayes (once he’s healthy), Jacob Ford, Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Raheem Brock can effectively rush off the edge from the start.

OBSERVATION DECK
  • [+] EnlargeLavelle Hawkins
    Don McPeak/US PresswireLavelle Hawkins has been impressive during the preseason, but can the fourth-year receiver rise on the team's depth chart?
    Offensive line coach Mike Munchak consistently develops talent, but the Titans have virtually no experience behind their starting offensive line. Mike Otto could be sufficient as the backup swing tackle, but they could look for a veteran interior swing guy after cuts.
  • Lavelle Hawkins has gotten great reviews and is more of a traditional slot receiver than Justin Gage. It’ll be great for the team if Hawkins provides an option inside, but I’ll wait until he’s deployed in a meaningful game before buying the hype.
  • Babin is a new reclamation project for defensive line coach Jim Washburn. He’s suited for the team’s go-get-the-quarterback mentality and in practice, and in the first preseason game, appeared to be getting off the ball with excellent speed.
  • Jared Cook is only now starting to flash and create the buzz he generated at this time a year ago. The second-year tight end is a physical specimen and an attractive target, but word is he’s not as reliable as he should be. One thing that can hurt his cause: Stevens, while nowhere near Cook as an explosive threat, has been catching the ball well.
  • Dowell Loggains was promoted to quarterbacks coach when Fisher shuffled his staff a bit with the late departure of running back coach Kennedy Pola. Loggains has used some creative new methods to keep things fresh for his guys. It seems small but can make a big difference.
  • Ryan Mouton is not on par with the more consistent Jason McCourty or the more instinctive rookie Alterraun Verner among the cornerbacks vying for the No. 2 spot. I expect McCourty to start opposite Cortland Finnegan with Verner backing up the effective, but oft-injured, Vincent Fuller at nickelback. Verner’s ability to find a pick almost every day is one of the big stories of camp.
  • Sen’Derrick Marks is significantly stronger than he was as a rookie and could be an influential player for a defensive line that’s expected to be much more productive.
  • The Titans saw young defensive coordinators Gregg Williams and Jim Schwartz reach new comfort levels in their second seasons. Chuck Cecil expects to follow a similar course. Cecil knows that if he doesn’t, he’ll face another season of uncomfortable questions.
» NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Which AFC South rookie will have the biggest impact?

There are plenty of opportunities for first-year players in the AFC South, and it makes sense that a high draft pick who fills a need and will get time on the field will be the choice here.

[+] EnlargeTyson Alualu
AP Photo/John RaouxTyson Alualu made a positive impression during Jacksonville's offseason workouts.
I expect Derrick Morgan to start, but the Titans' defensive end will need some time to find his rhythm. The Titans have some other rush options at end in William Hayes, Jacob Ford and even Dave Ball. In Indianapolis, first-round defensive end Jerry Hughes will work behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and I suspect he will be eased in as the third guy.

At this point, I’d say the highest impact guy in the division will be one of three candidates: Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson, Houston running back Ben Tate or Jacksonville’s Tyson Alualu.

Jackson will be relying on the pass rush and the play of the rest of the secondary to help him succeed, and Tate starts off behind Steve Slaton and Arian Foster and needs better blocking than the Texans were able to provide last season.

Alualu’s not as reliant on others and has no veteran in front of him, so he’s my choice.

He showed an explosive first step and good hand action in OTAs. The Jaguars are hell bent on better penetration that will get quarterbacks off their spot and off their timing.

If Alualu beats the guy in front of him or even makes him retreat a bit, he’ll have an impact from the start and all season.

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